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What makes an ironman tick?

This weekend I attended as support and supporter the Ironman 70.3 event at Wimbleball lake in Somerset. Renowned as the toughest course on the circuit due very hilly bike and run course, it’s a picturesque place to compete in and to watch. I took a lap of the run course and can vouch that it’s undulations and variety of surfaces do make it a challenge (or maybe that’s just a lack of distance running on my part!). In the event village, you get an idea of what it is that makes the triathlete tick. Conversations on which gels to take, tyre pressures, helmet aerodynamics and carbon bike frames were everywhere. Each athlete was looking for the silver bullet that would give them the edge on race day, it got me wondering whether or not they placed the same emphasis on the training they were doing….looking at some of the body shapes and running techniques around I suspect not.

Maybe that’s a bit of cynicism on my part. I know that small differences in surface area make a large impact on drag. I know the importance maintaining electrolyte balance and carbohydrate and protein intake on a long distance endurance event. I also now know that body glide can shave seconds off the removal of a wetsuit and elastic laces can also achieve a quicker transition. But I also know the value of training at appropriate intensity and how test data, like maximum lactate steady state, can aid this. I also know the how a movement screen and appropriate training can dramatically reduce the potential for injury and how some strength training can improve running economy and power output on the bike. I didn’t hear any of those conversations. Again, maybe because it was race day and thoughts of training were in the past.

As for the event itself, it was incredibly well run. The layout of the campsite, event village and course was very spectator friendly and think this was appreciated by the athletes as they were cheered around the grueling course. Also, the way the 1400+ athletes were looked after and organised was superb, everything ran incredibly smoothly and kudos has to go the organisers.

Neil Welch

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